Building a test suite in React JS

Dec 01, 2014

I’m primarily a Rails developer but everyday I seem to be writing more and more front end JavaScript. While writing Ruby, tests are a given part of the process. This is not the case with JavaScript. I’ve always found that odd and I’ve also written enough JavaScript to intimately know how frustrating it can be.

It’s a delight writing Ruby with a test suite so why is it acceptable that most JavaScript goes into production without automated tests? I believe difficulty and fear are the culprit. It’s hard to get started; the tooling, workflow and even what to test are foreign. Rather than continue to deal with difficult JavaScript applications I decided to learn how to develop a test suite.

I’ve also been writing a lot of JavaScript with React. I could write a length post on why React is great library for building user interfaces, I will one day, but for now I want to mention that my test suite targets React. Another reason to mention this is that React is very conducive to testing, hopefully this becomes more apparent with my examples.

If React is a bit of a new concept to you I highly suggest taking ten minutes to work through the official tutorial - it’s a worthy investment.

Application Setup

If you’d like to follow along by writing code (I strongly suggest you do) you need should clone this boilerplate for a quick start.

git clone https://github.com/jarsbe/react-webpack-boilerplate test-suite

cd test-suite

npm install

Firstly we need something to test. The application we’ll create is simply (stupid) point of sale tool. There will be two components; an App component which contains a list of items and a Checkout component which contains a list of all selected items. The Checkout component also has a counter for the total number of selected items. An item can be selected by clicking on it. I told you it was simple!

If you are coding along replace the main.js file with the following code.

var React = require('react'),
    App = require('./app');

React.render(<App />, document.body);

Next remove the component.js file and create the app.js and checkout.js files.

var React = require('react'),
    Checkout = require('./checkout');

var App = React.createClass({

  onSelectItem: function(index) {
    var item = this.props.items[index];
    
    this.setState({
      selectedItems: this.state.selectedItems.concat(item)
    });
  },

  getInitialState: function() {
    return {
      selectedItems: [] 
    };
  },

  getDefaultProps: function() {
    return {
      items: [{ title: 'Bread' }, { title: 'Milk' }, { title: 'Cheese' }]  
    };
  },

  render: function() {
    var listItems = this.props.items.map(function(item, i) {
      return <li key={"item" + i} onClick={this.onSelectItem.bind(null, i)}>{item.title}</li>
    }.bind(this));

    return (
      <div> 
        <ul>{listItems}</ul>

        <Checkout items={this.state.selectedItems} />
      </div>
    );
  }
});

module.exports = App;
var React = require('react');

var Checkout = React.createClass({

  render: function() {
    var listItems = this.props.items.map(function(item, i) {
      return <li key={"selectedItem" + i}>{item.title}</li>
    });
    var count = listItems.length;
    return (
      <div>
        <ul>
          {listItems}
        </ul>
        <span>{count}</span>
      </div>
    );
  }
});

module.exports = Checkout;

Take 5 minutes to read how the application works. To run the application execute webpack -w (install webpack if you need it), in another terminal change directory into the site cd site and run a server python -m SimpleHTTPServer. Now the application is available on http://localhost:8000. Time to get testing.

Testing Setup

To build a test suite we need tools. Facebook uses Jest, which is a layer upon Jasmine. Jest offers automatic mocking and uses JSDom for running tests in the command line (rather than the browser). Automatic mocking is useful since we’ll be testing components in isolation, all of our dependencies will be mocked by Jest. Take a look here for more information on automatic mocking. Along with Jest we need React Tools to transform any JSX during testing, this is optional but very helpful.

To install these tools.

npm install jest-cli react-tools --save-dev

To transform JSX a helper function is required. In a support folder create a preprocessor.js file to do the work.

var ReactTools = require('react-tools');

module.exports = {
  process: function(src) {
    return ReactTools.transform(src);
  }
};

To use the preprocessor add this configuration inside the package.json file. It adds test script and informs Jest of the preprocessor function. It also makes sure that React itself is not automatically mocked!

"scripts": {
  "test": "jest"
},
"jest": {
  "scriptPreprocessor": "<rootDir>/support/preprocessor.js",
  "unmockedModulePathPatterns": [
    "<rootDir>/node_modules/react"
  ]
}

Next add a folder called __tests__ in the root directory. Jest is magical enough to automatically run any test in any files sitting in this directory.

Just for sanity run npm test. Jest should run and everything should pass with flying colours.

Testing

Now the moment we’ve been waiting for, writing tests. Here’s a spoiler - all the hard work has been done. The original goal of this post was to learn how to setup a JavaScript test suite. With that out of the way everything else is an implementation detail but ending it here wouldn’t be much fun, so on to the tests.

The simplest component is the Checkout. It accepts only one property items and generates a list from those items. The Checkout also calculates a total items count.

To get this component tested create a checkout-test.js file inside the __tests__ directory. It also needs some boilerplate code like so.

jest.dontMock('../components/checkout.js');

var React = require('react/addons'),
    Checkout = require('../components/checkout.js'),
    TestUtils = React.addons.TestUtils;

describe('Checkout', function() {

  it('renders each item as a li', function() {
  
  });

  it('displays the items count', function(){
  
  });
});

Here Jest is told not to mock the Checkout component then all the necessary dependencies are required. Finally there are two empty tests; one to check each item is rendered, the next to make sure the item count is correct.

To get these tests running you need to create an instance of the component, give it some items to render and finally select the DOM nodes to test.

describe('Checkout', function() {

  var CheckoutElement = TestUtils.renderIntoDocument(
    <Checkout items={[{ title: 'test' }, { title: 'test' }]} />
  );

  var items = TestUtils.scryRenderedDOMComponentsWithTag(CheckoutElement, 'li');
  var count = TestUtils.findRenderedDOMComponentWithTag(CheckoutElement, 'span');  
...

The final piece of the puzzle is to add the expectations to each test.

...
it('renders each item as a li', function() {
  expect(items.length).toEqual(2);
});

it('displays the items count', function(){
  expect(count.getDOMNode().textContent).toEqual('2');
});

Nice and simple. We make sure there are two li nodes and that the items count is correct. The nice thing about React is that it’s simple to test. The Checkout component is given data and the tests make sure it renders as expected. You can see this pattern again after testing the App component.

jest.dontMock('../components/app.js');

var React = require('react/addons'),
    App = require('../components/app.js'),
    TestUtils = React.addons.TestUtils;

describe('App', function() {

  var AppElement = TestUtils.renderIntoDocument(<App/>);

  var list = TestUtils.scryRenderedDOMComponentsWithTag(AppElement, 'ul')[0];
  var items = TestUtils.scryRenderedDOMComponentsWithTag(AppElement, 'li');

  it('has 3 default items', function() {
    expect(list.props.children.length).toEqual(3);
  });

  it('has no selected items', function() {
    expect(AppElement.state.selectedItems.length).toEqual(0);
  });

  describe('clicking an item', function() {
    it('adds it to the selected items', function() {
      TestUtils.Simulate.click(items[0]);
      expect(AppElement.state.selectedItems.length).toEqual(1);
    });
  });
});

These tests follow the same create a component, give it data and expect output pattern. There’s also the added complexity of component state and function calls. Clicking an item in the App list should add that item to the Checkout list. This happens via a state change in App. The only thing we need to test is that clicking on an item adds it to the state’s selected items array.

Conclusion

Before embarking on building this test suite I had never tested any JavaScript code. It feels silly that I have put it off for so long after realising how simple and similar (to RSpec) it is. I’m also fully away that React makes this testing quite simple, given the patterns explained above. Hopefully this has helped you banish some of the fear behind testing JavaScript too.

A few things that helped me was figuring out where to look in the documentation. Since I’m using 3 different tools (Jest, Jasmine & React Tools) it was confusing at first. I got started by looking at Jest specifically the React section and then reading the API (which is very concise). Next I had a look through both the Jasmine Guide and the React Test Utils. It’s a bit strange looking through 3 sets of documentation, but they work surprisingly well together.

As a final note you may have noticed everything is using CommonJS like modules. As a Rails developer this is very foreign and almost a reason to avoid testing all together. Don’t fret however, you can have your cake and eat it too. I strongly suggest reading James McCann’s post on incorporating Webpack with Rails.